Science building lauded for bringing researchers together

The creation of a $75 million science building late this year will cement interdisciplinary ties between Northwestern’s science departments. Literally.

The 140,000-square-foot Proteomics and Nanobiotechnology Building will connect via pedestrian bridges to both Pancoe Life Sciences Pavilion and the Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly, university officials announced Wednesday.

Students will be able to walk from the Sheridan Road entrance of the Technological Institute to the new building without stepping outside.

“Scientific research that crosses disciplinary boundaries has been a hallmark of NU,” said University Provost Lawrence Dumas in a press release. “By bringing together researchers from a variety of disciplines under one roof, and then physically linking that building with our other science facilities, we hope to encourage interactions that lead to scientific advances.”

Discussion and planning for this building has been going on for years, said Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance. The building, previously called the Chemistry of Life Processes building, should be completed in two and a half years.

Being close to colleagues of different disciplines is a great advantage for researchers, said Luis Amaral, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering.

“In lots of new research you sometimes kind of need a finer knowledge,” Amaral said. “It’s better to collaborate with someone who really knows how to do it, because that way you can advance much faster and hopefully lead to breakthroughs.”

Amaral’s office in Tech will move to the new building once it is complete.

The setup of the building demands that professors from different disciplines interact on a daily basis, Amaral said.

“It’s very easy for faculty to bump into one another and be very aware of what each other is doing and what the other is looking at,” he said.

This facility will accommodate 16 scientists and their research groups working in chemistry, biology and engineering, along with offices for faculty, staff and research assistants.

Therapeutics and diagnostics, along with proteomics, the study of proteins, will have core facilities in the building.

Although the new structure will not have classroom space, Sunshine said undergraduates working in labs or participating in research will benefit from the new building. Undergraduates can also profit from the knowledge of their professors who are working in the labs, he said.

NU is receiving some federal funding for the project, but there is no lead donor yet.

Sunshine said NU is optimistic that a donor will emerge, especially considering the project hasn’t begun. There is also a significant planning and construction period before it is complete.

“There is a good prospect for a lead donor or two,” Sunshine said.

The building’s construction will eliminate about 70 parking spaces in the lot just west of the Allen Center. A campus parking planning advisory committee is looking into creating additional parking, such as an underground parking garage.

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